Greek authorities are taking statements from survivors and looking for evidence that will let help them draw up a list of missing persons who were on the migrant boat when it sank in waters off the coast of the Peloponnese, a police officer on a team for the identification of disaster victims told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency on Thursday.
“So far, 78 bodies have been retrieved from the Pylos shipwreck, which were transferred to Athens for a post-mortem examination, photographs, fingerprinting and for samples of biological material to be taken,” said police officer Vasilis Makris.
The Disaster Victim Identification Team, made up of police officers and coroners, was put together after the Pylos shipwreck at the request of the Hellenic Coast Guard.
“We are taking statements from the 104 people that survived the shipwreck and are trying to determine how many more were on the boat, while we are investigating whether there are clues in order to draw up a list of missing persons,” he said.
In the case of first-degree relatives, he added, biological samples were taken from survivors as well to compare with those from the bodies.
Asked whether there was an estimate of the number of people that were on the sunken fishing boat, Makris said that no precise estimate was possible.
“…even the statements of the people that were on it are contradictory. These people were piled up together, one on top of the other, and travelling for days. Nobody knows exactly how many days they were travelling,” he said.
According to Makris, those on board the ship had set off from Libya and did not want to come to Greece but to reach Italy. The ship had sent an SOS to Italian authorities, who in turn notified the authorities in Greece.
Kalamata Coast Guard begins inquiry into migrant boat shipwreck
The Kalamata Coast Guard on Thursday announced the launch of an inquiry into the sinking of a boat carrying hundreds of migrants in international waters off the coast of the Peloponnese, 47 nautical miles southwest of Pylos.
According to an announcement “there is not a specific number of arrests of persons suspected of being the traffickers of the irregular migrants on board the fatal fishing boat.”
It also amended the confirmed body count, saying the number of bodies recovered was 78 and not 79. The number of people missing remains unknown.
Meanwhile, a search-and-rescue operation to locate more persons missing at sea continued through the night in the area around the shipwreck, without success, as the number of persons rescued remains at 104 and no new dead bodies were recovered. Two coast guard vessels, a helicopter and six ships sailing in the area were participating in the search.
About 30 dead bodies were loaded onto refrigerator trucks at Kalamata port and samples will be taken from them for DNA analysis to aid in identification.
The survivors that were not taken to hospital spent the night in a specially adapted area in the port.
Police, fire brigade and coast guard vehicles and personnel arrived at the port early in the morning to provide assistance in the operation, along with trucks bringing food and water.
Talking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, a nurse with the Hellenic Red Cross in Kalamata, Katerina Tsata, said that the first night had gone well and some of those taken to hospital had already returned. She noted that the survivors were exhausted, both physically and mentally, and in need of psychosocial support, while many had been prescribed medication that the Red Cross was preparing to procure for them.
The survivors of the shipwreck are all men, aged between 16 and 40 years old, and the problems reported were mainly hypothermia, fainting and hypoglycemic episodes and pneumonia.
In the meantime, relatives who fear their loved ones were on board the fishing vessel have been desperately appealing for information, with some arriving in Kalamata port. One man living in Germany was looking for his 18-year-old brother, whom he had last spoken to six days earlier and knew only that he set off from Syria to reach Italy. Another man based in Cyprus knew that his nephew had been on board the fishing boat but was unable to find him among the survivors.